First Brick Chewing Gum Factory Built in the United States

Curtis & Son Company. Through the above concern Portland is noted for the manufacture of chewing gum, as the history of the entire business of the world dates back to the start made by John B. Curtis, in 1850. Spruce chewing gum was made by his father with the use of a kitchen stove, and rudely put up in comparison with the marvels of artistic creations of the present day.

Mr. Curtis started out with his time novel product, and, undaunted by the unpromising reception at first, finally succeeded in educating the dealer, and through hint the public, until the demand outgrew his wildest hopes. Three different factories were built by him, for the making of chewing gum, the last in 1866, is shown in the accompanying illustration. This is the first brick building ever built for the manufacture of chewing gum, to which notable enlargements have been made necessary, from time to time to keep pace with the growth of the business. After the use of spruce gum had become firmly fixed in the public favor, it was discovered that paraffine was a material which could be made use of in the manufacture of chewing gums, and to this day these white gums are popular with a large portion of the public. In about 1871, gum chicle, which had been brought to New York for purposes of experimenting, and as a hoped-for substitute for gutta percha, was found to be a very acceptable substance, and perfectly adapted to the making of chewing gum; since that time the use of this material has increased enormously, and with a very large part of the public, has supplanted the use of spruce and paraffine.

The output of this historic factory is over 1,000 boxes daily. Shipments are now made covering the entire territory from St. Johns, New Foundland, to Honolulu, and from Owen's Sound, Ontario, to the City of Mexico. The business in this city requires from 65 to 85 hands the year round, and the factory is equipped with all the labor saving devices in the way of modern machinery. There is used at the factory 200,000 pounds of sugar, 75,000 pounds of gum chicle, 25 tons of spruce, and 20 tons of paraffine annually.

This concern, the pioneer in the chewing gum business in the United States, and in fact, the world, for many years enjoying and meriting a monopoly, was, until his decease, carried on under the firm name of Curtis & Son, by the late John B. Curtis, a well known citizen of Portland. On January 1898, the business was merged into the present close corporation, of which Adam P. Leighton is president, and S.B. Adams, treasurer, both of whom are well known in business and financial circles.

Then and Now: 
Curtis & Son Company
Article Types: 
Article Locations: 
289 Fore street
Portland , ME
United States
43° 39' 29.2824" N, 70° 15' 4.0104" W
Maine US